Israeli Druze singer Mike Sharif says he'll perform in Gaza soon

An Israeli Druze singer announced he would perform in Gaza soon, although receiving an entry permit to Gaza is difficult for Israelis.

Israeli Druze singer Mike Sharif (photo credit: Ronen Akerman/Wikimedia Commons)
Israeli Druze singer Mike Sharif
(photo credit: Ronen Akerman/Wikimedia Commons)

Israeli Druze singer Mike Sharif announced that he would be performing in the Gaza Strip for the first time "soon," in a short video published on his Facebook and Instagram profiles on Sunday, just weeks after he sparked an uproar after performing Hebrew songs at a Palestinian wedding in Hebron.

"For the first time, a historic festival in Gaza," wrote Sharif on the Facebook post on Sunday, accompanied by the hashtags "Ambassador of Peace" in Hebrew and Arabic. The Druze performer also posted a story on his Instagram profile reading "Music connects people" in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

The comments on the Facebook post varied between supportive statements encouraging the singer to comments expressing fears for Sharif's life if he does actually perform in Gaza.

Sharif is a Druze singer who began performing as a child in the 1980's, with his first album released in 1992.

The Gaza Tourism Ministry announced on Sunday that it had no knowledge and had not been informed by any tourist authority about Sharif's intention to organize a concert in the Gaza Strip.

According to the website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Israeli citizens are only allowed to enter the Gaza Strip if they receive a specific permit which is only given in extraordinary circumstances.

The website states that only those with a personal or family connection to the Gaza Strip can file to receive a permit.

A document from 2020 detailing how such requests are handled included instructions for visiting family members, attending funerals and weddings, east Jerusalem residents and Arab-Israelis who wish to enter the enclave for humanitarian or business purposes or extraordinary humanitarian cases. 

It is unclear whether a concert can receive a permit, especially considering the risk Sharif could be at if he enters Gaza in light of the response to his show near Hebron.

Sharif recently released a new song called "Ahlah Isha" (An Excellent Woman), with lyrics in both Hebrew and Arabic.

The Druze singer sparked outrage among some Palestinians last month when video was shared on social media of a Palestinian crowd singing and dancing to Hebrew music sung by Sharif at a wedding in Yatta near Hebron.

A video on his Facebook page showing him singing the song "Why Not?" with the crowd singing and dancing along. The video showed Sharif being accompanied to the stage by a large number of security guards.

Some Palestinian social media users and news sites expressed outrage at the video, with commenters on social media writing "shame" and speaking out against the Palestinian Authority and its supporters. Some commenters claimed the concert was an attempt at normalization and linked the event to Fatah supporters.

In 2011, the Palestinian Authority banned Sharif from performing at a New Year's Eve party in Ramallah. The decision to ban Sharif, known as “The Druse Boy,” was taken following strong protests and threats by many Palestinians who oppose “normalization” with Israelis.

The Palestinians were angered at the time by the fact that Sharif was presented as an Israeli and that some of his songs were in Hebrew. Some said it was unacceptable that Israelis songs would be sung in Ramallah on the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead. Others said they didn’t like the fact that a member of the Druze community, whose sons serve in the IDF, would appear at a party in Ramallah.